OS X 10.8 removes iTunes sync support with Outlook for Mac

Update: After a few comments from folks saying they are not seeing issues I  retested syncing on a clean install of Mountain Lion and Office 14.2.3. Indeed, they’re correct. Syncing between Outlook for Mac and Mountain Lion’s Calendar and Contacts applications is working as expected. Although, I made efforts to test carefully the first time I can only assume I made a mistake in my efforts. Apologies to anyone I’ve misled.


Today, on my blog post Sync Outlook for Mac calendars and contacts to iPhone, where I explain how to sync Outlook using iTunes, I received this simple question in the comments:

“Have you tried this syncing procedure with Mountain Lion to see if is still that same, without the Exchange server? Thanks”

Well, no, I hadn’t. But I didn’t really expect much to have changed regarding the procedure.

I was very wrong.

Based on my own testing and reading numerous discussions online I found Outlook for Mac no longer syncs with Mountain Lion’s Calendar (formerly iCal) and Contacts (formerly Address Book) via iTunes.

While I found no specific documentation from Apple, some developers have reported Apple deprecated Sync Services in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and that an iCal sync bug in Mac OS X 10.7.4 may actually be a nudge to move away from Sync Services sooner rather than later.

“Deprecated” means Apple won’t be actively developing this part of the operating system and at some point in the future the framework will go away altogether. This was first evident when the iSync application disappeared from the Applications folder when Lion was released. As a workaround customers found they could restore the iSync application from a Time Machine backup of Snow Leopard and it still worked because the underlying framework was still present.

In Mountain Lion not only did the iSync application not return but Calendar and Contacts are completely disconnected from Sync Services. iTunes-facilitated syncing between Outlook and Apple’s applications is now dead. That means syncing between Outlook and any iOS device is dead too without using a cloud service.

Syncing Outlook with non-Apple mobile devices that rely on Sync Services (such as Android and Blackberry) more than likely continues to work because the underlying framework is still present in Mountain Lion. But for how long? Companies like BusySync, Blackberry and Spanning Sync have already found they can no longer sync with Apple’s Calendar and Contacts. According to Charlie Wood with Spanning Sync, Apple is directing developers to write their applications to support the CalendarStore and Address Book frameworks. Spanning Sync has decided to bow out of the market because of the time and effort to rewrite their software.

Outlook for Mac users now have just one option for syncing mail, calendars and contacts with any Apple product: Microsoft Exchange, which is a solution geared more toward enterprise customers. Multiple hosting services offer Exchange for home and small business consumers including Microsoft’s Office 365.

Apple and Microsoft have the same agenda—push customers toward cloud sync services. For now, Outlook users on Mountain Lion are limited to Exchange service providers to sync with iOS devices, none of which is free like iCloud or was free like iTunes syncing.

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7 comments to OS X 10.8 removes iTunes sync support with Outlook for Mac

  • Hello, an application like SOHO Organizer syncs calendars and contacts with iCloud accounts via WebDAV. I know, I use it. It is not new, that’s the cas for many months now.

    • Thanks for the pointer! I had read Apple hadn’t opened CardDAV sync, which I found surprising. My efforts to find an example application were fruitless.

      That’s promising because it means Microsoft has no technical reason not to fully support iCloud. They’ve been reluctant to do so (no support for CalDAV) although demand has been high. If they still choose not to sync with iCloud in the next version of Office for Mac then it’s clearly because of internal political and/or marketing decisions.

      I’ve removed that statement.

  • Her is ta link to a screenshot in SOHO prefs shonwing my parameters and CardDAV syncs :

  • Alex Holst

    Interestingly, I came across this article while trying to debug why a recently 10.8-upgraded Macbook Air stopped syncing Outlook calendars to Calendar (and thus iPhone via iTunes). Syncing contacts still works just fine, however.

  • Ethan

    I don’t think you’re write about Calendar not working with Sync Services. I use BusyCal and Life Balance, which both communicate with the Calendar using Sync Services. They are both working for me under Mountain Lion.

    In addition, I don’t see anywhere on the BusyMac site (makers of BusyCal and BusySync) where they say that they can’t sync with Calendar. If you look on they report that their two products sync, once you’ve reset them.

  • Terry

    So…. Curious. I always had this working. Specifically I used to have iCal synced with Outlook but it is now broken for me as well. Everything except this blog states it will not work now. Microsoft states on their site that Apple dropped SyncServices too.

    My Sync Services is now blank. I have tried to reset etc…

    I am lost on how to fix. You stated you did a clean install. That is a lot of work. Surely there is a fix or other?

  • Terry


    This blog got my SyncServices to work again.

    I had to delete some files and restart.